Chrysanthemums, often called mums or chrysanths, are perennial flowering plants of the genus Chrysanthemum in the family Asteraceae which are native to Asia and northeastern Europe. About 30 species have been described. Florists sometimes abbreviate the spelling to "xants".
The name "chrysanthemum" is derived from the Greek words, chrysos (gold) and anthemon (flower).
The genus once included more species, but was split several decades ago into several genera, putting the economically important florist's chrysanthemum in the genus Dendranthema. The naming of the genera has been contentious, but a ruling of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature in 1999 changed the defining species of the genus to Chrysanthemum indicum, restoring the florist's chrysanthemum to the genus Chrysanthemum.
The other species previously included in the narrow view of the genus Chrysanthemum are now transferred to the genus Glebionis. The other genera separate from Chrysanthemum include Argyranthemum, Leucanthemopsis, Leucanthemum, Rhodanthemum, and Tanacetum.
Chrysanthemum species are herbaceous perennial plants growing to 50–150 cm tall, with deeply lobed leaves with large flower heads that are generally white, yellow or pink in the wild. They are the preferred diet of larvae of certain lepidopterans.
Chrysanthemums were first cultivated in China as a flowering herb as far back as the 15th century BC. The plant is renowned as one of the Four Gentlemen in Chinese and East Asian art. The plant is particularly significant during the Double Ninth Festival. The flower may have been brought to Japan in the eighth century AD, and the Emperor adopted the flower as his official seal. The "Festival of Happiness" in Japan celebrates the flower.
The flower was brought to Europe in the 17th century. Linnaeus named it from the Greek word χρυσός chrysous, "golden" (the colour of the original flowers), and ἄνθεμον -anthemon, meaning flower.
Chrysanthemums entered American horticulture in 1798 when Colonel John Stevens imported a cultivated variety known as 'Dark Purple' from England. The introduction was part of an effort to grow attractions within Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Modern cultivated chrysanthemums are much more showy than their wild relatives. The flowers occur in various forms, and can be daisy-like, decorative, pompons or buttons. This genus contains many hybrids and thousands of cultivars developed for horticultural purposes. In addition to the traditional yellow, other color are available, such as white, purple, and red. The most important hybrid is Chrysanthemum × morifolium (syn. C. × grandiflorum), derived primarily from C. indicum, but also involving other species.
Chrysanthemums are divided into two basic groups, garden hardy and exhibition. Garden hardy mums are new perennials capable of being wintered over in the ground in most northern latitudes. Exhibition varieties are not usually as sturdy. Garden hardies are defined by their ability to produce an abundance of small blooms with little if any mechanical assistance (i.e., staking) and withstanding wind and rain. Exhibition varieties, though, require staking, overwintering in a relatively dry, cool environment, and sometimes the addition of night lights.
The exhibition varieties can be used to create many amazing plant forms, such as large disbudded blooms, spray forms, and many artistically trained forms, such as thousand-bloom, standard (trees), fans, hanging baskets, topiary, bonsai, and cascades.
Chrysanthemum blooms are divided into 13 different bloom forms by the US National Chrysanthemum Society, Inc., which is in keeping with the international classification system. The bloom forms are defined by the way in which the ray and disk florets are arranged.
Chrysanthemum blooms are composed of many individual flowers (florets), each one capable of producing a seed. The disk florets are in the center of the bloom head, and the ray florets are on the perimeter. The ray florets are considered imperfect flowers, as they only possess the female productive organs, while the disk florets are considered perfect flowers, as they possess both male and female reproductive organs.
Irregular incurves are the giants of the chrysanthemum world. Quite often disbudded to create a single giant bloom (ogiku), the disk florets are completely concealed, while the ray florets curve inwardly to conceal the disk and also hang down to create a 'skirt'. Regular incurves are similar to the irregular incurves, only usually with smaller blooms and nearly perfect globular form. The disk florets are completely concealed. They used to be called 'Chinese'. Intermediate incurve blooms are between the irregular and regular incurves in both size and form. They usually have broader florets and a more loosely composed bloom. Again, the disk florets are completely concealed.
In the reflex form, the disk florets are concealed and the ray florets reflex outwards to create a mop-like appearance. The decorative form is similar to reflex blooms without the mop-like appearance. The disk florets are completely concealed, and the ray florets usually do not radiate at more than a 90° angle to the stem.
The pompon form of blooms are fully double, of small size, and almost completely globular in form. Single and semidouble blooms have completely exposed disk florets, with between one and seven rows of ray florets, usually radiating at not more than a 90° angle to the stem.
In anemone blooms, the disk florets are prominently featured, quite often raised and overshadowing the ray florets. The spoon form disk florets are visible and the long, tubular ray florets are spatulate. in the quill form, the disk florets are completely concealed, and the ray florets are tube-like.
The disk florets in the spider form are completely concealed, and the ray florets are tube-like with hooked or barbed ends, hanging loosely around the stem. In the brush and thistle variety, the disk florets may be visible. The ray florets are often tube-like, and project all around the flower head, or project parallel to the stem.
Exotic blooms defy classification, as they possess the attributes of more than one of the other 12 bloom types.
Chrysanthemum leaves resemble those of its close cousin, the mugwort weed — so much so, mugwort is sometimes called wild chrysanthemum — making them not always the first choice for professional gardeners.
Yellow or white chrysanthemum flowers of the species C. morifolium are boiled to make a sweet drink in some parts of Asia. The resulting beverage is known simply as "chrysanthemum tea" (菊花茶, pinyin: júhuā chá, in Chinese). In Korea, a rice wine flavored with chrysanthemum flowers is called gukhwaju (국화주).
Chrysanthemum leaves are steamed or boiled and used as greens, especially in Chinese cuisine. Other uses include using the petals of chrysanthemum to mix with a thick snake meat soup (蛇羹) to enhance the aroma.
Small chrysanthemums are used in Japan as a sashimi garnish.
Pyrethrum (Chrysanthemum [or Tanacetum] cinerariaefolium) is economically important as a natural source of insecticide. The flowers are pulverized, and the active components called pyrethrins, contained in the seed cases, are extracted and sold in the form of an oleoresin. This is applied as a suspension in water or oil, or as a powder. Pyrethrins attack the nervous systems of all insects, and inhibit female mosquitoes from biting. When not present in amounts fatal to insects, they still appear to have an insect repellent effect. They are harmful to fish, but are far less toxic to mammals and birds than many synthetic insecticides. They are not persistent, being biodegradable and also decompose easily on exposure to light. They are considered to be amongst the safest insecticides for use around food. Pyrethroids such as permethrin are synthetic insecticides based on natural pyrethrum.
Cultural significance and symbolism
In some countries of Europe (e.g., France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Poland, Hungary, Croatia), incurve chrysanthemums are symbolic of death and are used only for funerals or on graves, while other types carry no such symbolism; similarly, in China, Japan and Korea, white chrysanthemums are symbolic of lamentation and/or grief. In some other countries, they represent honesty. In the United States, the flower is usually regarded as positive and cheerful, with New Orleans as a notable exception.
- In Australia,the chrysanthemum is traditionally given to mothers for Mother's Day, whilst men will wear it in their lapels to honour mothers, as the flower is naturally in season during autumn.
- The chrysanthemum is one of the "Four Gentlemen" (四君子) of China (the others being the plum blossom, the orchid, and bamboo). The chrysanthemum is said to have been favored by Tao Qian, an influential Chinese poet, and is symbolic of nobility. It is also one of the four symbolic seasonal flowers.
- A chrysanthemum festival is held each year in Tongxiang, near Hangzhou, China.
- Chrysanthemums are the topic in hundreds of poems of China.
- The "golden flower" referred to in the 2006 movie Curse of the Golden Flower is a chrysanthemum.
- "Chrysanthemum Gate" (jú huā mén 菊花门), often abbreviated as Chrysanthemum (菊花), is taboo slang meaning "anus" (with sexual connotations).
- Chrysanthemums were first cultivated in China as a flowering herb as far back as the 15th century BC.
- An ancient Chinese city (Xiaolan Town of Zhongshan City) was named Ju-Xian, meaning "chrysanthemum city".
- The plant is particularly significant during the Double Ninth Festival.
- The Chrysanthemum Throne is the name given to the position of Japanese emperor.
- Chrysanthemum crest (菊花紋章, kikukamonshō or kikkamonshō) is a general term for a mon of chrysanthemum blossom design; there are more than 150 patterns. The Imperial Seal of Japan is a particularly notable one; it is used by members of the Japanese imperial family. There are also a number of formerly state-endowed shrines (官国弊社, kankokuheisha) which have adopted a chrysanthemum crest, most notably Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine.
- The Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum is a Japanese honor awarded by the emperor.
- The city of Nihonmatsu, Japan hosts the "Nihonmatsu Chrysanthemum Dolls Exhibition" every autumn in historical ruin of Nihonmatsu Castle.
- In Imperial Japan, small arms were required to be stamped with the Imperial Chrysanthemum, as they were considered the personal property of the Emperor.
- The chrysanthemum is also considered to be the seasonal flower of September.
- The chrysanthemum is the flower of the American musician fraternity Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia.
- The yellow chrysanthemum is the flower of the Phi Kappa Sigma international fraternity.
- The White Chrysanthemum is the flower of Triangle Fraternity, a society of engineers, architects, and scientists.
- Chrysanthemums were recognized as the official flower of the city of Chicago in 1961.
- Chrysanthemums are the official flower of the city of Salinas, California.
- The indie rock band The Mountain Goats references chrysanthemum in the title song from their 1995 album Nine Black Poppies.
- The rock band Everclear has a song named after the flower.
- The punk rock band Strung Out references the flower in the song "Lucifermotorcade".
- The alternative/punk band AFI references the flower in their song "The Great Disappointment' from their 2003 album Sing the Sorrow.
- The yellow chrysanthemum is the official flower of Sigma Alpha, a professional agricultural sorority.
- The term "chrysanthemum" is also used to refer to a certain type of fireworks shells that produce a pattern of trailing sparks similar to a chrysanthemum flower.
- The chrysanthemum is also the flower of November.
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